PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The panel that oversees the Legislature’s activities outside the regular winter session decided Monday to start planning for the possibility of a special session on COVID-19 funding and other issues related to the pandemic in South Dakota.
A majority of the Legislature’s Executive Board agreed that five policy committees should gather data from the public at hearings September 14-18 about COVID-19’s effects and send recommendations to the Interim Committee on Appropriations.
More than $900 million of federal coronavirus relief funding remains available but, at this point, would need to be given back if it’s not committed December 30.
The vote was 10-5. The proposal came from Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert of Mission. “We have to give people a chance to let us help,” Heinert said. All of the board’s House Republicans supported him, while all but one of the board’s Republican senators opposed the idea, preferring instead that the 18 appropriators come up with ideas.
House Speaker Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, said the work could lead to a 2- or 3-day special session later this year. “The clock is ticking and the time is now to act on this,” he said.
Haugaard had sent a letter to Governor Kristi Noem earlier this summer carrying the names of 49 representatives who wanted a special session. The House has 70 members. The 35-seat Senate hasn’t taken a public position.
Senator Jim Bolin, a Canton Republican who voted against the plan Monday, reminded the board that the South Dakota Constitution allows a special session only when the governor calls it or when two-thirds of the members in the House and two-thirds in the Senate sign a petition for it.
The committees will be joint House-Senate panels. The Legislative Research Council will announce the hearing schedule, with one committee scheduled each day during working hours. Testimony will be taken virtually via technology, so lawmakers and witnesses don’t have to be at the Capitol.
The committees are:
- Agriculture and natural resources
- Health and human services
- Commerce and energy
- Local government